A person washing their handsThe Rodham Institute is dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of D.C. Following the guidelines set forth by the CDC, the Rodham Institute has rescheduled all events. More information to come. In the meantime, we invite you to share information on our website about COVID-19.

What is COVID-19?

The human coronavirus is named for its appearance, the spikes on its surface resembling a crown. Some human coronaviruses (e.g. 229E, NL63, OC43, or HKU1) that circulate among the population cause more mild illness, like the common cold. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) are also human coronavirus diseases. Like SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, COVID-19 evolved from a coronavirus that infected animals. Because COVID-19 is different from these other disease-causing coronaviruses, it is sometimes called the novel coronavirus. But why is it also called COVID-19?

The World Health Organization announced that the illness-causing this global outbreak will officially be called coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19 for short. ‘CO’ comes from ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ comes from ‘virus,’ and ‘D’ comes from ‘disease’. 2019 is the year this novel coronavirus was discovered.

How does COVID-19 spread?

Person staring out the window  Clinician helping a patient

COVID-19 spreads from person-to-person, from individuals who are actively sick with the disease as well as those who show no symptoms (asymptomatic). Most commonly, the disease spreads through respiratory droplets, but it may be possible to contract COVID-19 from surfaces if you then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. Not everyone who gets the virus will develop the disease.

Person-to-person spread

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 ft.).
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.
  • These droplets can land in the mouths, noses, or eyes of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
  • COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms.

The virus spreads easily between people

The virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading very easily and sustainably between people. Information from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic suggests that this virus is spreading more efficiently than influenza, but not as efficiently as measles, which is highly contagious. In general, the more closely a person interacts with others and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread.

The virus may be spread in other ways

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, but we are still learning more about how this virus spreads.  The virus is viable on surfaces for the following length of time:

  • Plastics - 72 hours
  • Stainless steel - 48 hours
  • Cardboard - 24 hours
  • Copper - 4 hours
  • Can be detectable in the air for at least 3 hours

*New England Journal of Medicine (Halbrook et al., 2020)

It’s important to quarantine for 14 days after exposure to the virus, because that is the longest incubation period observed for similar human coronaviruses. If you suspect you have been exposed to COVID-19, even without experiencing symptoms, self-quarantine for 14 days. If after this timespan illness is not developed, an individual is not considered at risk for spreading the disease and they are released from quarantine.


What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

*This is not a full list of symptoms.

Seek immediate medical attention if you are experiencing difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, persistent chest pain or pressure, new confusion or inability to arouse, and/or bluish lips or face.

Who is at risk for COVID-19?

Man holding his wife

People who are at risk of developing severe illness include older adults, individuals with chronic, underlying medical conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease, individuals with HIV and other autoimmune diseases, and other immunocompromised people. If you are at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19, take everyday precautions and stay home as much as possible.

How can I keep myself and others safe?


To avoid getting sick and to protect those at high risk for severe illness, it is critical that you: wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds often, avoid touching your face, practice physical distancing, avoid travel, disinfect surfaces regularly, and always wear a facemask. 

A facemask protects you and others from spreading infection.  Wear eye protection as your eyes contain membranes and are a route of infection.  Studies suggest that most COVID-19 infection spread comes from asymptomatic individuals, so wearing a mask will curb infection.

Source: CDC (2020)

Resources for DMV residents during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

From food to mental health, to school, and testing, help is available.


Arcadia Foods

  • Free meals at each pick-up site for students affected by school closings.

Bread for the City

  • Offering groceries to medical patients with urgent care needs

Capital Area Food Bank

  • After School Meals that can be picked up on site
  • Senior Programs: providing groceries though the food bank’s Grocery Plus and My Groceries to Go Locations and at Senior Brown Bag Locations
  • Pop-Up Pantries

DC Central Kitchen

  • Takeaway meal sites at Walker-Jones Education Campus (Ward 6) and Kelly Miller Middle School (Ward 7)
  • Free meals for individuals 19 and under – times locations listed on DC Central Kitchen’s Twitter, @dcck

DC Department of Ageing and Community Living (DACL)

  • Meals for seniors will be available for pick-up at each site from 10am-2pm for current participants

DC Public Schools

  • Free meals for all students

Food and Friends

  • Regular operations are continuing
  • Preparing to deliver shelf-stable food items if limitations affect regular operations

Good Stuff Eatery

  • Kids eat free while schools are closed

List of Maryland and Virginia Free Meal Sites

Little Miner Taco

  • Kids get one free meal per day while DC and MD schools are closed

Medium Rare

  • Delivering free meals to seniors in DC


  • Free take-out meals for children under 18
  • Free take-out meals to hospital workers with valid ID and free take-out meals for their team members and families


  • Free meals for hospital workers with valid ID – text #Hero to 200-03 to obtain a unique code for delivery
Mental Health

The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation

Psychology Today

My Sister's Place:  Ending Violence, Empowering Lives

  • Website:
  • DC 24-Hour Hotline:  1 (844) 443-5732
  • Adminstrative Office Phone:  (202) 529-5261
  • Email:

House of Ruth:  Hope Starts Here

Break the Cycle:  Support for young people (ages 12-24) in abusive relationships

  • Website:
  • Administrative Office Phone:  (202) 849-6289
  • To chat with a peer advocate, text "loveis" to 22522 
  • To submit general inquiries, go to:

Metropolitan Police Department

  • Website:
  • Contact Numbers:
    • Emergency:  911
    • Non-Emergency:  311
    • Domestic Violence Coordinator at Police Headquarters:  (202) 727-7137

DC Public Schools

  • Instructional materials, including lessons and student activities, available online

Free subscriptions from education companies

Scholastic Learn at Home


  • 30 days of free storage for college students forced to evacuate campuses
  • Partnering with to deliver boxed and packing supplies to students’ residences
Other Resources

Aunt Bertha

  • Website and phone application for free health resources available in your zip code


  • Offering free broadband internet for 2 months to low-income families


  • Suspending service disconnections and waiving late fees through May 1 on a case-by-case basis
Testing Resources and Patient Information
  • GW's medical enterprise is launching drive-thru COVID-19 testing on Monday, April 6, 2020, in parking “Lot 3” on the corner of 20th and H Streets NW, beginning at 9:30 a.m. and running until 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

    Testing at the GW site will be by appointment only. Patients exhibiting coronavirus symptoms are urged to reach out to their providers for a telemedicine consult and an order for testing. Patients who are referred and have an order for testing will be given an appointment window for drive-thru testing. They must present that order and identification upon entering the drive-thru lane at 22nd and H Streets, NW. For more information on how to obtain a drive-thru testing order please go to

  • UMC Testing Site:
    Drive-thru testing and walk-through testing will be available at the United Medical Center (UMC) at 1310 Southern Avenue SE starting Monday, April 6th. Testing will be available on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, from 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.  Residents are asked to arrive no later than 1:30 p.m. Residents must have an appointment to get tested. Contact your primary care physician to receive a referral for a test, then scheduled through the Testing Triage Call Center by calling (855) 363-0333.

    Testing is for:
    - DC residents with symptoms who are 65 years and older
    - DC residents with symptoms who have underlying health conditions
    - Individuals with symptoms who work in a health care provider or facility in DC
    - First responders with symptoms who work for District Government.

  • Where is the test site?
    Testing will be in the parking lot of United Medical Center (UMC) at 1310 Southern Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20032. Vehicles should enter via 13th Street, SE and be prepared to wait between 45-75 minutes (please plan accordingly, bathrooms will not be provided on-site). Starting Monday, April 6, individuals walking up should enter from Southern Avenue, SE.
    When will walk-up testing begin?
    Walk-up testing will begin on Monday, April 6 and every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday thereafter. Pre-registration is still required for walk-up testing

COVID-19 Testing Information and Locations 

Dr. Jehan El-Bayoumi discusses going back to school